17 October 2013

Is it art? A visit to Frieze Fair London

That big question - what is art? I've been to thousands of art exhibitions and galleries, taken tens of art courses and I still have no real answer to that question but I don't think I'm alone in this dilemma. Is it in the eye of the beholder? Like beauty, there is usually some agreement on what is and what is not but there is also space for the quirky one offs. 

October in London sees the great and the good (and the bad) in the art world gathering at Frieze Art Fair. Collectors and artists from all over the world can be found in the enormous tents pitched in Regent's Park for 4 days of schmoozing and being seen and trying to spot the next big thing so they can say they 'found them ages ago'! 

I was lucky enough to be invited to the evening preview (big thanks to The Marylebone Hotel, London, part of the Doyle Collection) so I got to wander around, with my glass of champagne, checking out the art before the crowds piled in the next morning.  I took loads of photos so I could  share the fair with you. I make no judgement and some are pretty 'out there' but I hope you enjoy your virtual Frieze and for those of you who like a bit of people watching, scroll towards the end of the photos and you'll see some of the fashions.....


This one's interactive - you could sit in the middle!

Here are just a few photos of the people at the fair who were mostly dressed up and some in amazing outfits but there were also a few jeans and grubby trainer types too but no photos of them!

 Coinciding with Frieze are loads of new openings at London's great museums and art galleries so watch out for future blogs about these and some more unexpected openings!  I'm not giving any clues about that but watch this space.......

Bye for now,

8 October 2013

Day trips from London: the ancient sites of Stonehenge and Avebury

Now and again even I feel the need to head out of London to explore the wonderful countryside in the UK, whether it's further afield to Scotland or to the great sights all around London. My most recent excursion took in not one but two Unesco World Heritage Sites, both within an easy day trip.

Our two sites were Stonehenge and Avebury and here's what the Unesco folk have to say about them: "Stonehenge and Avebury, in Wiltshire, are among the most famous groups of megaliths in the world. The two sanctuaries consist of circles of menhirs arranged in a pattern whose astronomical significance is still being explored. These holy places and the nearby Neolithic sites are an incomparable testimony to prehistoric times". And " Stonehenge is the most architecturally sophisticated prehistoric stone circle in the world, while Avebury is the largest in the world".  So, armed with that inspiring description, we set off! 

Stonehenge is just a couple of hours drive from central London and as you approach you can catch glimpses of the stone circle before you actually drive past it on the way to the car park. There is considerable controversy about this road and there are plans to redirect it through a tunnel to return Stonehenge to its dominating position in the countryside but who knows when and evenif that will happen and in the meantime the A303 rumbles past. 

Once parked up, we headed into the site with great excitement, our only sadness was the murky weather in the middle of a sunny week but it added a more mysterious atmosphere and some moody photos. I was surprised how close we were to the stones as I had heard that visitors were kept well away for fear of people touching and damaging the stones. The stones are huge, the largest weighing over 40 tons, and so many remain in position that it is not hard to imagine how the massive circle could have looked back in the prehistoric times.  Many stories are told of why it was built but no one can be sure whether it was ceremonial, religious or astronomical - or all of these or something else entirely!

 As a visitor you follow a circular path and walk right around the large circle so you can see the stones from every angle armed with a very informative audio guide. You can spend as long as you like marvelling at this extraordinary 5,000 year old structure and let your imagination go....

Here are a few photos so you can see what all the fuss is about:

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Zooming in to see the stones

From Stonehenge it's just a 45  minute drive to Avebury the second of the UNESCO monments and the largest stone circle in the world!  It's completely different in that the circle is so large that it encompasses the village of Avebury and has several roads bisecting it, which gives it the sense of being an integral part of life here. The stones themselves are smaller and are very spread out but you can walk round tracing the circle which disappears in parts where the stones have been take away - such well hewn stones were too good for the locals not to reuse in nearby buildings.  Avebury is a lovely village with many beautiful houses from a range of different eras and a good looking pub - of course! 

The circles, there are more than one as several appear within the wider outside circle, date from about 3,600 BCE. Again we don't know why it was built and it is intriguing to read that as many as 15 of the giant stones, or megaliths, are buried on the site as during the early 14th century locals pulled down and buried the stones as they believed they were the work of the devil. You can imagine how that would happen as the effort taken to move these giant stones into place would have seemed superhuman to them.

Here are some photos to compare with Stonehenge:

There is so much more I could tell you about Stonehenge and Avebury and I've just given you a few highlights so do look them up online and try to get to visit one or both sites if you can. 

Back in London next week so bye for now.